Those who matter

November 6th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Philippians 1:3 (NIV)
I thank my god every time I remember you.

The writer of this reading shares a story I thought was worth reproducing.

There’s a true story of a little boy whose sister needed a blood transfusion.  The doctor explained she had the same disease that he’d recovered from 2 years earlier.  Her only chance of recovery was a transfusion from someone who’d conquered it, so the boy was an ideal donor.  “Would you give your blood to Mary?” the doctor asked.  Johnny hesitated, his lower lip trembled, and then he smiled and said, “Sure, for my sister.”  Soon the two children were wheeled into the hospital room – Mary, pale and thin; Johnny, robust and healthy.  Neither spoke, but when their eyes met Johnny grinned.  But as the nurse inserted the needle into his arm Johnny’s smile faded.  He watched the blood flow through the tube.  With the ordeal almost over Johnny’s voice, slightly shaky, broke the silence.  “Doctor, when do I die?”  Only then did the doctor realize why little Johnny had hesitated, why his lips trembled when he agreed to donate his blood.  He thought giving his blood to his sister meant giving up his life.  In that brief moment he had made his great decision.

Wow!  “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:15 (NIV))  That little boy was prepared to give up what he knew of life so his sister could have it.  Who are we willing to give our lives for?

Living like a citizen of God’s kingdom

November 3rd, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Matthew 6:10 (KJV)
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.

The writer summarizes the Beatitudes describing how citizens of God’s kingdom should act:

  1. They are humble.
  2. They are submitted to God’s will.
  3. They hunger and thirst for more of God.
  4. They show mercy to others.
  5. They have a pure heart.
  6. They are peacemakers.
  7. They rejoice, even in hard times.
  8. They know their reward is waiting for them.

Imagine if we could do these things on a consistent basis.  I had the opportunity to speak to my daughter Bethany’s Campus Crusade for Christ group at Cascadia Community College this week and the theme of my message was being who those around us need us to be.  Imagine if we could follow these 8 points how much more effective we could be in reaching people for Christ?

  1. If we we were humble, we would offer little to compete with the ego of others.
  2. If we were submitted to God’s will we could hear His voice and be able to follow it in our interactions with others.
  3. If we hungered and thirsted for more of God we would have a passion for the things of God.
  4. If we showed mercy to others they would see how attractive a life with God would be.
  5. If we had a pure heart, it would be difficult for others to question our motives.
  6. If we were peacemakers we would find it difficult to create conflict with others.
  7. If we rejoiced even in hard times others would see how we handled those hard times and see our joy.
  8. If we knew our reward was waiting for us others would see that there is something more than this life.


Seeing others the right way

October 28th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

1 Corinthians 13:7 (TLB)
If you love someone you will…always believe in him, always expect the best of him.

The topic of this reading is something that really strikes a chord with me.  How do we treat the people we encounter?  How much do we allow our past experiences and stereotypes color our behavior towards a person?  What do we really know about that person’s circumstances and condition?  What was written for this reading is so good I am reproducing it here.

We rarely discern others accurately.

Almost every conclusion we have about them is flawed and based on limited knowledge.  We give up too soon because we can’t see what God is looking at.  Someone close to you right now has a great future – God has already determined it.  In fact, if you knew their potential you would withhold your words of criticism and invest more time and energy into them.  Remember Joseph?  Don’t make the mistake his brothers made.  The person who aggravates the living daylights out of you today could be the one you turn to for help tomorrow.  So keep that in mind and treat them graciously!

Look beneath the surface.

Appearances can be deceptive.  Remember Ruth, the migrant laborer working in the fields for less than minimum wage?  She’ll become the wife of Boaz – who owns the fields!  In the future she might be signing your paycheck.  So when you meet her be sure to leave “handfuls [on] purpose” to bless her (See Ruth 2:!6).

Take another look at the situation you don’t understand.

Remember Mary the mother of Jesus, looking for a place to spend the night and have her baby?  Here’s the opportunity of a lifetime; don’t miss it!  Why did Jesus say in the Sermon on the Mount, “Love your enemies” (Luke 6:27)?  Because Saul of Tarsus (the one who’s giving you so much grief at the moment) may become Paul the Apostle, bringing multitudes into the kingdom and writing books that change lives – including yours!  So ask God to help you see in others what He sees!

Now, with all that said, there are certainly good reasons to be cautious or to not spend too much time or energy in a particular situation.  Stereotypes exist because there is some truth to them – for some people.  But what we do is apply them to everyone we see who fits certain criteria instead of getting to know them for who they are.  What kinds of needs does that person?  Why are they acting the way they are?  Are they just naturally a jerk or is there some need they are expressing?

If we can view people from this perspective, at least the following things will occur:

  • We will treat others with more respect.
  • We will have a more positive outlook.
  • As Christians, we will be more effective at reaching people for Christ.

Showing grace (1)

October 23rd, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Focus:  Differing opinions vs. being right or wrong

Colossians 4:6 (NLT)
Let your conversation be gracious.

My opinion of myself is that I am general easy-going, pleasant, and easy to talk to.  However, I know through my experiences with some that my opinion in that regard is sometimes incorrect.  I have a goal of treating others with respect because that is what I want, but when I get what I perceive as disrespect back, I’ve seen how that goal gets lost in the shuffle; it’s a subconscious thing.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this response, which is why I write about it. :-)

The writer of this reading highlights three points related to communication.  Even when you try to live at peace with everyone:

Conflicts will still arise

I was talking with my wife and mother-in-law yesterday about doctors.  The name of a particular doctor came up in the conversation and my mother-in-law stated she didn’t care for that person.  She’d had a bad experience that caused her to look elsewhere for her medical care.  I, on the other hand, really like that doctor.  In this conversation we recognized how much we appreciated that we lived in an area where there are lots of choices, whether that be doctors, churches, whatever, because people have different needs, personalities, ways of operating.  I’ve never lived in a small town where there was only one doctor, one church, one whatever, but I can imagine the kind of conflict that arises.  That’s not to say that when there is conflict we should run, only that sometimes it’s okay.

Even Christians won’t always agree

The writer quotes Chuck Swindoll talking about how, when he was younger, he "couldn’t understand how two people who loved the Lord and believed the Bible could come to different conclusions."  I like how he puts this:  "I soon discovered that there weren’t only various opinions, but God had the audacity to bless those who disagreed with me."  I’ve been in the same place.  It just seems so illogical, so incomprehensible.  But there it is.  "God’s much easier to live with…tolerant…full of more grace and forgiveness than all of us."

Every perspective has some merit

This point requires relationship.  There are certainly issues where there is a right-or-wrong answer (e.g. is Jesus the Son of God), but usually the opposing position was reached after careful consideration.  In other words, things aren’t always (maybe I should I say are seldom) black-and-white.

I’ve always considered myself to have a collaborative approach to making decisions.  I like talking to others and gaining consensus.  My company recently had a management consultant come in and evaluate the employees for the purpose of having us work better together so we can be more productive overall.  One of the things I found through that was that I am not alone.  People have different ways of solving problems and reaching a decision.  Some like to make the decision and move on, while others don’t have as much confidence in their own decisions and need to validate it with others.  These very differences in how a conclusion is reached is another example for how every perspective has some merit.

My devotions

October 20th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

It could be inferred from my postings here that if you don’t see a posting for a particular day that I’ve missed my devotion for that day.  To address that, I want to assure you (I don’t know that there are very many readers, but all of you who do read) that isn’t necessarily the case.  While when I started this blog I tried to write something for every single devotion, I am now only blogging about it if something from the day’s reading strikes me in a way that gives me something to write about.

Please keep reading, however.  I value your input and feedback.  I’d love to know who reads, and to strike up a conversation through these writings.


The reason for the battle

October 20th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Focus:  God’s call on your life

Judges 6:12 (NIV)
The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.

How do you see yourself?  You may be surprised that the devil is more concerned about you than you have confidence in yourself.  When things seem to be falling down around you, maybe it’s because you are having an effect against the enemy.  Satan knew about Job because of his righteousness.  Some are known because of their prayer life or good works.  If these are trademarks of your life, you can probably count on the devil sitting up and taking notice.

Gideon was hiding in a cave from the Midianites yet God called him a mighty warrior.  How could that be?  Maybe because God sees the beginning from the end.

I like what the writer of this reading says next:  "Somewhere in your life you should have a vision that humanly speaking makes no sense, something you know could never happen without God."  Wow!  That’s where Gideon was.  What I like about that statement is that it requires that you have hope and faith.

I’ve always felt that I could do just about anything if I set myself in that direction to do it.  As I’ve grown older and had some challenging experiences, I’ve lost some of my hope and have started to scale back some of my dreams.  I see here, however, that what I need to do is submit them to the Lord and keep moving forward.  One of my favorite sayings about the will of God is that God can’t steer a parked car.  What this means to me is that if I stand still and do nothing He can’t really do anything in me; however, if I am moving, even in the wrong direction, then He can always change my direction.

You must start where you are and use what you have, then God will give you more.

A legacy of bitterness

October 18th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Hebrews 12:15 (NIV)
See to it that … no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

I have had my share of unforgiveness and even bitterness.  The question addressed by today’s reading, though, is how that unforgiveness, anger, and bitterness affected others around us.  Even if I’ve forgiven someone, did my attitudes at the time plant a seed of bitterness in others and color their views of that particular person or organization?  I suppose that is why complaints should be shared with discretion and not aired publicly (there are exceptions, of course).  Disagreements don’t just affect the parties involved; they also affect people around those parties.

I certainly have some things to pray about.  Consider your disagreements with others and decide whether you need to clear up some things.

The Rebekah principle

October 17th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Focus:  Your actions today will determine your future.

Proverbs 13:4 (NLT)
Those who work hard will prosper.

What does it mean to work hard?  In most of the things I commit to I have the attitude that anything worth doing is worth doing well.  Usually that means putting in extra time, going the extra mile, trying to exceed people’s expectations.  This personal ethic has served me well, opening up opportunities where there may have been none.

As a parent, I’m sure I am not alone in trying to communicate this ethic to the next generation – my children.  So often kids don’t get it until later in life, maybe while in college.  But if they could catch it earlier, so many opportunities would open up.

One side-effect of this ethic for me, however, is that I find so often that I am overcommitted; I only have so much time in the day and as I get older I find that I don’t have as much energy to devote to things as I once did.  I suppose that is why we get educated, start careers, and raise kids when we are still young. :-)

How to pray when you’re worried

October 17th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything…then his peace will guard your hearts and minds.

Scripture has a lot to say about how to handle worry and today’s reading identifies some of that in the form of a prayer.

  • Isaiah 41:10-11 (NIV):  So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish.
  • Psalm 91:9-11 (NIV):  If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord, who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
  • Isaiah 43:2-3 (NIV):  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.
  • Isaiah 54:17 (NIV):  No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.  This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me.
  • 1 John 5:14-15 (NIV):  This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.
  • Deuteronomy 28:6 (NIV):  You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.
  • 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV):  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Understanding the Lord’s prayer

October 16th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Matthew 6:9 (NIV)
This…is how you should pray.

Today’s reading does a good job of explaining the Lord’s prayer in everyday language.  One of the things that I’m finding exciting about reading in the Scriptures lately is how much God is about relationship rather than simply a code of ethics, and this passage is no different.

When you pray "Our Father in heaven" it establishes the basis of your relationship with God.  He’s not just your Creator He’s your Father.  You can create something and be related to it, but if you father it – it will always be yours.  Today you can come to God with the assurance that you’re His.  You can call Him Abba, a term of endearment which means Daddy (See Romans 8:15).

It was the relationship with God that drew me to Him.  There was something different about the people I saw who had a relationship with Him – not how good they were (although they were good).

"Hallowed be your name" means He’s more than just your Father, He’s your God.  He’s worthy of your love but He demands your respect.  How should we approach God?  With our complaints, our demands and our wish list?  No: "Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him" (Psalm 100:4 NIV).  Gratitude gets God’s attention every time!

There are two points here.  First, God is our God, not just our father.  Proverbs 1:7 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (KJV).  That isn’t to say we should be afraid of God, but that we should respect Him and be in awe of Him.  Probably not a bad basis for most relationships, actually.

Second, when we approach God in prayer, what do we say?  In any relationship, showing gratitude is the quickest way into someone’s heart.  As a parent, I try to teach my kids to be grateful for what they have.  In the same way, God is moved when we express our gratitude.

"Your kingdom come," releases God’s power"Your will be done," releases His purpose"Give us today our daily bread," releases His provisions.  The things you lack and long for begin to flow into your life because now you’ve accessed His power, discovered His purpose for you and you’re walking in it.

It’s not that we are tapping in to power.  To say it that way would be an abuse of our relationship with God, saying that we’re just using Him to get to His power.  Certainly in any relationship there are benefits to both parties, and our relationship with God is no different, but there are no magic words or incantations that release this power.  Instead, we learn how to live in the reality of the presence of God.  As we relate with Him, we learn what He wants to accomplish and the result is that the benefits of our relationship with Him are released.

"Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."  It’s easier to forgive when you recall the things God has forgiven you for, and realize that your enemies can’t stop Him from blessing you.  Remembering God’s goodness to you will give you the grace to forgive others, and even understand them!

How true that is!  Luke 4:36-50 relates the story of Jesus dining with in the Pharisee Simon’s home and the sinful woman anointing His feet.  In that passage He points out that those who are forgiven much have much to be grateful for.  I can also testify to how much being understood means to me.  That is true forgiveness.

"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one" means we enter each day prepared for battle, promised victory, and protected against all of Satan’s attacks.  And that’s why Jesus said, "This…is how you should pray."

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